Plato’s Theory of Education

 plato republic


            “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls at the same time the means of mental production, so that the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age; thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.”

Karl Marx in German Ideology[1]

Education is the key to Plato’s scheme of a just and virtuous society. Ruling classes of all the epochs following disintegration of the primitive communism most reliable and effective instrument of producing ideas and thereby creating the form and level of consciousness. Not only it has historically played role of ideological apparatus but also of revolutionary changes, depending on the character of education [2].Plato realized this with his experiences during the 12 years of wandering after Socrates’s execution in BC 399. To realize his conceived notion Ideal State, first task he undertook was to establish Academy in the natural ambience at the outskirts of Athens, the first anticipation of the modern university system[3].   Plato talks about social justice and individual justice and the just individual is creation of an appropriate and hence just education. The edifice of Plato’s theory of the Ideal State ruled by the philosopher kings/queens rests on the pillars of his theories of education and the communism. Plato realized the importance of education in defining and controlling knowledge for a hegemonic social order. Our Vedic and Buddhist ancestors had this realization much before Greeks, though for contrasting goals, former for restricting the acquisition of knowledge defined by them and monopolizing it for the perpetuation of social hegemony and later for ubiquitousspread of knowledge defined by itin terms of real life situations aimed at the destruction of the hegemony.

Educationis so immensely vital in Plato’s scheme that it is the subject of focus in all the books (chapters) from ii to vii except book v of the Republic. Rousseau calls it “the finest treatise on education that ever was written”[4]. Through state controlled and maintained education system the rulers could create such mindsets that would help retaining the social order and harmony. For Plato, the State’s priority must be education that shall take care of all the other issues. Ever since, the education has remained the most effective ideological apparatus in the hands of the ruling classes. Plato is the first western philosopher to theorize and put in practice through the establishment of Academy, the concept of institutionalizedpublic education system in the west.  China and India had already well-established systems of institutionalized education. In ancient India, there were two competing education educational systems. The Brahmanical Gurkulsystem, an authoritarian system of instruction in which the Guru (teacher) was beyond question. In some Sanskrit maxims, he is equated with God[5]. Neither questioning nor any debate-discussions were allowed, whereas knowledge comes from not what is taught, but from questioning what is taught.  It imparted the education of conformity; conformity withthe established Brahmanical hierarchical social order. The children of only the ruling classes in the fourfold social division were allowed the accessto education. Buddhist tradition was a revolutionary, dialectical system of debate-discussion, and democratic discourse. There is neither scope nor the need of distraction intoBuddhist and Brahmanical schools of education; it is just to allude to the historic fact that education may be an instrument of revolution as well as of reaction.The modern education of scientific revolution and Enlightenment played a revolutionary role by emancipating the knowledge system from the clutches of theology. It was essential for the bourgeois democratic revolution against the regressive feudalism. The liberal capitalism based on the industrial revolution needed scientific temper and inventive mindset to question and invent. The logical corollary of scientific education is questioning its claim of the end of history. Need of neo-liberal global capital is no more rationality but conformity. There is no scope of going into the history of changes in the nature of institutional education in correspondence with the changing needs of the ruling classes.   Plato is also the first philosopher in the western tradition to conceptualize state maintained and controlled education. In recent times, particularly since the globalization, states have been abdicating their maintenance responsibility while intensifying the control over it[6].

History of knowledge ismuch older than the history of education. In fact the history knowledge is as old as the history humanity. Knowledge is continuous dialectical process of learning and unlearning ever since the humans began to distinguish themselves from animal kingdom by producing and reproducing their livelihood by application of labour and the active mind, a human species-specific attribute. In ancient primitive societies, those considered to be knowledgeable were entrusted with positions like priest or commander and consulted about righteousness of particular views or acts. The journey of knowledge through learning-unlearning process from experiences and experiments has covered a long distance, to put it metaphorically, from Stone Age to cyber age. The intellectuals of every generation critically consolidate and build upon the achievements of previous generations. There is no scope of detailed discussion on the history of knowledge; I have dealt with it, elsewhere.[7]The history of education is almost as old as the division of society into classes of haves and have-nots with disintegration of primitive communities. The transformation of subsistence economy into surplus economy and appropriation of surplus led to their control over the society’s means of production. Systems of education began to construct the knowledge in the interest of the dominant classes and provide validity to their hegemony. Plato believed that knowledge is the highest virtue hence pleaded for the supremacy of knowledge but not the knowledge of worldly things, the knowledge of the Idea of Good, as defined by him. Out of the huge population only a very few have the potentiality and ability to know the Idea of good. How is it determined and realized?  It is done through education lasting up to the age of philosophers.

            The importance of education in Plato’s political scheme

Plato’s priority for education can be easily understood as half of the space of the Republic is devoted to education. He considered education to be sure cure of the all ills of the society. Like his theory of communism, the theory of education is also a logical corollary of the theory of ideal state that he theoretically constructs for his central concern of the justice. Justice for him is everyone’s acting according to his nature. And one can know and realize one’s nature though education. The basis of the ideal state is philosophy and study of philosophy requires the well planned educational system. Buddhist education was aimed at breaking an established class society of Varnashram order based on the hegemony of knowledge. Brahmanical system of knowledge was to defend the existing class society while Plato’s aimed at creating a class society on the basis of the hegemony of the knowledge. For him taking care of education is state’s foremost responsibility, as it is instrumental to create politically unequal classes and maintain it in the context of politically egalitarian Athens, notwithstanding the economic inequalities.

In Plato’s Republic, the authority of the ideal state ruled by the philosophers is absolute that requires absolute subordination of individual to the state. Therefore, the education must be so designed that molds the mindset to suit the law of the state, as envisioned by the rulers. Rousseau in his critique of the civilization opines that civility introduces duality. One wants to look what one is not – the eternal contradiction of essence and appearance. This duality is most clearly visible in traditional Indian families. Parents and children live under the same roof for years without ever democratically interacting, they only hierarchically communicate. Children internalize these values of hierarchical relations of ‘discipline’ and obedience as the natural and the righteous way.  Discipline and unquestioned obedience to superior is underlined in the beginning of the discussion on education for preparation of future generations[8]. This is done by habituating them to think into just one way, perceived to be the righteous way, by designers of course-curriculum or the teacher. There is no scope of any dissenting ideas in the ideal state ruled by philosopher king. Such ideas of the past must be strictly censored. “Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only. Let them fashion the mind with such tales, even more fondly than they mold the body with their hands; but most of those which are now in use must be discarded.”[9]The present fiction writers or poets who do not sing the prescribed tune shall be banished or denied platform for performance[10].

Plato’s apprehensions of the danger from, and intolerance to the dissenting ideas from those thought to be righteous by the all-powerful rulers, have been relevant through all the historical ages in varied forms, in varying time &space. In the modern history, beginning from fascist onslaught of poets and activist, progressive poets and intellectuals[11], via cruel McCarthyism[12] to thecontemporary Neo-McCarthyism of the neo-liberal age, dissenting views are cruelly crushed under the pretext of anti-nationalism.Most recent demonstration of Platonian apprehension   is, the ruthless suppression of intellectuals with dissenting voices through extra-constitutional forces of ‘Hindutva’ terror groups and the constitutional coercive apparatuses of the state, since the inception of the present RSS supported BJP government[13].  Most recent example of is arrest of five well-known activist-intellectual on the fabricated charges by the Police[14].  The contradiction of theory and practice is not the monopoly of capitalism that never does what it says and never says what it does, but an immanently innate attribute of the all class societies. Plato’s notion of education as a determinant of meritocracy is full of such contradictions.

On the one hand he says that the mind is an active element that is attracted to its subject on its own. It has eyes and the teacher’s task is not to interfere in its motion but only to make its object sightable, i.e. to provide exposure and create conducive ambience for the free realization of its nature by the mind. On the other hand, proposes a strictly censored course curriculumwith many prescriptions and proscriptions.

As can be inferred from the above discussion, the theory of ideal state is the logical corollary the theory of justice and hence by implication, so is the theory of education, one of the two pillars of the edifice of the ideal state, the other being, the theory of communism. Justice means everyone acting towards realization of one’s nature. Education is to determine and thereby make the individuals to know their nature on the one hand and also train them towards perfection of it.He draws a comparison between the relationship of the soul and education with that of growth of a seed into plant with the variety of the soil and climate[15].  He considers education as the spiritual food of the soul and hence a lifelong process. Theory and practice both, according to him,are products of mind, even state is product of mind. That means one of the aims of education is to train the mind to remain in touch with the theory and practice both. The inverted priority of matter and mind has been discussed in the theory of ideas; the state cannot be product of the mind as mind abstracts the universal ideas from the particular objects not the other way round. Plato has a teleological (purposive) conception of mind that aims to comprehend the Idea of Good.  But not everyone can reach to that stage of knowledge, but only few, who are immanently innate attribute of excellence in the realm of reason.

The Education system

In ancient Greece, two systems of education were prevalent — Athenian and the Spartan. In Athens most lucrative field was politics. The education was private and the Sophists were, as is said, the robing universities, who taught for a fee. Protagoras (BC 490-420) was a prominent Sophist of Socratic era[16]. He was an atheist, a rarity those days in Greece. One of the false charges against Socrates in the Athenian judicial assembly was corrupting the youth by spreading atheism. Sophism, in Greek, is equivalent of wisdom. Sophists taught natural philosophy, mathematics and the subjects related to, what was considered by them,wisdom and virtue — from practical knowledge and prudence in public affairs to poetic ability and theoretical knowledge; oratory; eloquence; articulation argumentation, logic etc. In Republic, the sophist, Thrasymachus, is demonized and ridiculed and is shut up by the end of book I. That is the realm of education was family centered. Not the state centered.  Sparta was a military aristocracy and had a state controlled education system that imparted mainly military education and discipline. Plato synthesized the two and added the study of the dialectic at the highest stage of the scheme.

Plato divides the education into two parts – elementary and higher.  As the “early life is very impressible”[17] and the children are like wax and can be molded in the shape, one wishes to. Hence the education begins from the birth itself. “……  also that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken”[18].Hence the education begins from the time of birth itself.

The elementary education

The elementary education is divided into 3 parts:

  1. 0-6 years of the age;
  2. 6-18 years and
  3. 18-20 years.

The First stage (0-6 years)

The scheme of education is the same for boys and girls both. Education of women is a revolutionary contribution of Plato, as it was unheard of not only in Plato’s time but up to many successive centuries. The first stage of the education of the children, both boys and the girls, begins from the time of birth and lasts up to age of 6 years. Plato is quite correct to note that early childhood is very impressionable age and the children are keen observers; quick imitators with thinking faculty at the early stage of its growth, and also vulnerable to indoctrination. Purpose of education at this stage is to provide appropriate exposure and examples. The teachers must teach by example, same is true for parents outside Plato’s commune. Convinced with correctness of his views of good and bad and the ‘real interest’ of the society at large, Plato overtly-covertly resorts to the indoctrination. In the early stage the children are taught morality and goodness through lyrics, tales and historical or mythological heroic examples.

“But what shall their education be? Is any better than the old-fashioned sort, which is comprehended under the name of music and gymnastic? Music includes literature, and literature is of two kinds, true and false. …… . I mean that children hear stories before they learn gymnastics, and that the stories are either untrue, or have at most one or two grains of truth in a bushel of falsehood. Now, and children ought not to learn what they will have to unlearn when they grow up; we must therefore have a censorship of nursery tales, banishing some and keeping others. Some of them are very improper, as we may see in the great instances of Homer and Hesiod, who not only tell lies but bad lies; stories about Uranus and Saturn[19], which are immoral as well as false, and which should never be spoken about to young persons, or indeed at all; or, if at all, then in a mystery, after the sacrifice, …..”[20]

This is a very sticky wicket. There is no denying that the early exposures and tales and lyrics influence the growth of the child’s brain and its direction and dimensions, which shape their, the child consciousness. The choice of the kind of exposure in the hands of the rulers is tricky and subject to widely misuse. Let us give the benefit of doubt to Plato as the ruler of his ideal state is an all knowledgeable philosopher, who is able to comprehend the idea of good and would not allow its misuse. But historically, philosopher rulers have been exceptions; most of them have been the artists of power games, as realistically claimed by Machiavelli, many centuries later.[21]As quoted above from Marx’s German Ideology, in each historical epoch, the ruling class ideas influence the level and form of the social consciousness through particular value system/systems. These value systems have reference source/sources for the validation human acts and opinions. In ancient Greece these sources were the mythological writings of Homer and Hesiod; works of the socially recognized poets and fictions, as the bible in the medieval, theological era in Europe, also known as dark ages, or various scriptures like Manusmriti and mythological scriptures in India in the aftermath of Buddhist revolution and Brahmanical counter revolutions[22]. Plato questions the pervading value systems and proposes an alternative value system.In book II, after convincing his assenting companions, Adeimantus and Glaucon about the need of the tripartite social structure corresponding to tripartite composition of soul for the establishment of social and individual justices, Socrates in Republic proceeds to chalk out the scheme of education for the future guardians. From here to the next book, he does not say so much about what is to be taught as what is not to be taught.Why was Plato so against the value system based on mythological Homeric tales about various gods and divine order? All the communities create their language; idioms and phrases; Gods and Goddesses according to their historical needs and divine order in their own image. Evils of war; incest; patricide; quarrels and wars among the Gods were the fictionalized reflection existing mundane world. “First of all, I said, there was that greatest of all lies in high places, which the poet told about Uranus, and which was a bad lie too,–I mean what Hesiod says that Uranus did, and how Cronus retaliated on him. The doings of Cronus, and the sufferings which in turn his son inflicted upon him, even if they were true, ought certainly not to be lightly told to young and thoughtless persons; if possible, they had better be buried in silence.”[23]

For Plato Gods cannot do anything bad but only good. “But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect”[24]. Plato insists that they should not learn things of bad influence, what they have to unlearn, when they grow-up and goes on to ruthlessly analyze the existing intellectual resources, the poems of Homer Hesiod and works of other poets and dramatists and their evil influences on the children in their tender formative stage of life. “Then, although we are admirers of Homer, we do not admire the lying dream which Zeus sends to Agamemnon; neither will we praise the verses of Aeschylus in which Thetis says that Apollo at her nuptials ’Was celebrating in song her fair progeny whose days were to be long, and to know no sickness. And when he had spoken of my lot as in all things blessed of heaven he raised a note of triumph and cheered my soul. And I thought that the word of Phoebus, being divine and full of prophecy, would not fail. And now he himself who uttered the strain, he who was present at the banquet, and who said this–he it is who has slain my son.’ These are the kind of sentiments about the gods which will arouse our anger; and he who utters them shall be refused a chorus; neither shall we allow teachers to make use of them in the instruction of the young, meaning, as we do, that our guardians, as far as men can be, should be true worshippers of the gods and like them”[25].

The purpose of this long quotation is just to underline that the literature of the past must be strictly censored and the present writers must write only those things that are recommended by the state. Those poets and writes not following the state prescription are to be banished from the ideal state or denied the platform for performance. The future guardians must not be exposed to those stories and songs, which may arouse fear of death or erode devotion to Gods or hatred towards the truth. Therefore, on the one hand Plato, in principles, maintains that the education’s task is not to instill anything from outside but to provide only exposure and mind on itself would find its way, that should mean the exposure to the totality of the reality, onthe other hand limits the exposure to only what he considered to be desirable.The knowledge process involves not only learning but also unlearning, questioning and unlearning the irrational social values that one has acquired through socialization independent of one’s conscious will. But Plato’s educational scheme does not leave any scope for what one has learnt via a strictly censored and regulated course-curriculum. The early exposure is quite important in building up of the mindset and Plato seeks to expose children only to the good aspects of society and God. But the problem arise when they confront the existing reality that does not consist of only virtues but vices also, they are not taught how to deal with them. But like his theory of ideal state, the theory of education, it’s one of the pillars, is also a theoretical construct to eliminate the vices in coordination of its other pillar, the theory of communism.

The second stage (6-18 years)

In the first stage of the education the emphasis is to develop the appropriate orientation through music that develops and refines the soul. In the second stage the gymnastic is added to the music for the simultaneous development of body also along with the soul.

The Music

As quoted above, the music includes literature; poetry; songs; dance and instrumental music. The censorship of music that includes literature continues in the second stage also. At this stage the scope of the music takes a higher form by including selected harmonies and rhythms. “Next in order to harmonies, rhythms will naturally follow, and they should be subject to the same rules, for we ought not to seek out complex systems of meter, or meters of every kind, but rather to discover what rhythms are the expressions of a courageous and harmonious life; and when we have found them, we shall adapt the foot and the melody to words having a like spirit, not the words to the foot and melody”[26].  Further that “the  musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and also because he who has received this true education of the inner being will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why; and when reason comes he will recognize and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar”[27]. This means the censorship of literature is similarly applied to the harmonics and rhythms of the instrumental music. Plato firmly believes in the influence of the music in the character building, though it does not impart any scientific knowledge but promotes the thinking in the right direction. The wildness of passions is calmed down by the rhythms and the harmonies and fills the minds of the youth with a sense of conviction to justice.“When the modes of the music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them”.[28] It fills in the sense of discipline and devotion to God and protects the soul from evil influences. It shall not be inappropriate to conclude this section with yet another quotation.

“And therefore ……..  musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and also because he who has received this true education of the inner being will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why; and when reason comes he will recognize and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar.”

The Gymnastics

Gymnastics is about health care – maintenance of healthy body. It includes prescription of simple diet and cure of the body. He proscribes spicy and heavy food. He is against cures of illness as in his opinion death is preferable over living with illness. In his ideal statethere is no space for physicians, who instead of curing increase the illness like non-conforming poets and artists they too are banished[29].  The soul in the weak and ill body, according to him, cannot realize its nature. He holds the indulgence and indolence are the basic causes of illness. The physical trainings and exercises keep the body so fit that illness keeps away from it. The exercises not only keep the body fit but also help in building the moral character, as its final goal. It makes the youth temperate; courageous and disciplined. It is basically aimed at enabling the youth for military duties.

It is to be noted that though the reasoning is the philosophical basis of Plato’s political theory, there is hint that apart from censored music and gymnastics, nothing is taught in which the students have scope for application of reasoning abilities. The main aim seems to induct in the students the sense of discipline and obedience to the state that is to the directions of the philosopher, whose authority knows no limits of any law.

The third stage (18-20)

Last two years of the elementary education are devoted to military training. This phase is very important as music nurtures and nourishes the soul and gymnastic the body. In the choice of rhythms, as quoted above, Plato prefers warlike rhythms.  Through appropriate music and drills; sports; exercises as part of gymnastics, the elementary education prepares the youth into a disciplined soldier, the courageous watch dog knowing well on whom to be fierce or friendly. The dogs depend for knowing this on their instincts, the soldiers by training. Trainings of personnel of security forces of the states throughthe ages, not perfectly, but approximately fit into Platonian framework of the elementary education.

After the 20 years education in music and gymnastics, there is a first great elimination test, those who clear it are admitted to higher education and the rest take up the responsibility of warriors as disciplined soldiers.

The higher education

There are three stages in higher education also.

  1. The scientific education (20-30)
  2. Education in dialectic (30-35)
  3. Practical in dialectics (35-40)

The first stage (20-30 years)In this stage the students are given scientific education, which Plato, in his theory of knowledge diagram marks as the realm of understanding. After 20 years of elementary education in music and physical training, the successful candidates are introduced to the subjects like mathematics (arithmetic); geometry; astronomy; astrology and harmonics. The scientific education orients the youth towards the truth. Emphasis is on mathematics and not wrongly as it trains our mind for clear thinking; reasoning; logic and analysis. In underlining the importance of various subjects, Plato emphasizes their utility in war formations and strategies. There is no scope to go into details of his treatment of various disciplines. In nutshell there are two major advantages of te scientific education, according to Plato, firstly it orients towards reasoning and secondly it introduces the soul to the principles and ideas essential for the comprehension of the final knowledge, the knowledge of the Idea of Good. At the end of the 10 years of the scientific education, there is the second great elimination test. Those who clear this final test are recommended for further higher education in dialectics and those who fail are selected for subordinate administrative and military offices. As mentioned earlier, Plato does not consider the knowledge acquired from the scientific education as real knowledge but only understanding.

Second stage (30-35)

The students selected for higher education are taught dialectics – the philosophical journey into the invisible, intellible world of ideas — for the next five years. This has been briefly discussed in section of the theory of ideas. The training in the dialectics enables them to comprehend the idea of the good.

Third stage (35-50 years) 

After 5 years of training in dialectics, the students become would be only potential philosopher kings and queens, that the become after testing their philosophical theories into practice by a 15 year long apprentice by working on higher administrative and military positions.  Those, who prove their worth in handling the tough tasks working on these positions, become philosopher kings/queens, at the age of 50. Thus as a result of 50 years long strenuous education results into creation of the philosopher, who his a high quality scientist and philosopher. After the completion of education, the philosopher kings/queens devote themselves to the contemplation of the truth and the wellbeing of the people and guide them to just ways of the life.

Women’s Education

Though it has already mentioned in the beginning itself that education is meant for boys and girls both, yet it deserves additional treatment as the society was a rigidly patriarchal, and women were confined to only domestic chorus. They were not even citizens. In England, women got full citizenship rightsonly in 1929 after a prolonged feminist struggle and scholarship, beginning with Mary Wollstonecraft, in the last quarter 18th century[30]. Allowing women to uniform and equal upbringing and education with men was an innovative, revolutionary idea. His student Aristotle was so upset that questions Plato’s wisdom of giving away the enslavement of women with one stroke of pen, which has been a historic achievement of mankind. In book V of Republic, Socrates meticulously argues with Galucon and Adeimantus the equal potentials in women if given same upbringing and education as men. Confining the women into domestic chorus means deprivation of society of the utility of half of its intellectual resources. Let me conclude this discussion with a long quotation from dialogues between Socrates and Glaucon.

“Then, if women are to have the same duties as men, they must have the same nurture and education?


The education which was assigned to the men was music and gymnastic.


Then women must be taught music and gymnastic and also the art of war, which they must practice like the men?

That is the inference, I suppose.

I should rather expect, I said, that several of our proposals, if they are carried out, being unusual, may appear ridiculous. No doubt of it. Yes, and the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of women naked in the palaestra, exercising with the men, especially when they are no longer young; they certainly will not be a vision of beauty, any more than the enthusiastic old men who in spite of wrinkles and ugliness continue to frequent the gymnasia.

Yes, indeed, he said: according to present notions the proposal would be thought ridiculous. But then, I said, as we have determined to speak our minds, we must not fear the jests of the wits which will be directed against this sort of innovation; how they will talk of women’s attainments both in music and gymnastic, and above all about their wearing armor and riding upon horseback!”

Plato argues that once people see the results of women’s performances in public offices or in the field of war, they shall begin appreciating it instead of ridicules.

Concluding Remarks

The educational scheme is only for the ruling classes, not for children of the majority of economic producers. Though, Plato theoretically constructs the ideal state by extending the principles of the division of labor and exchange in the egalitarian First City, the city of various kinds of producers, he excludes them from the political community, to be ruled by educated philosophers with the help of trained, armed auxiliaries. Plato’s aristocratic education, not totally but largely resembles the Brahmanical, Gurukul, education system in the same way as the structure of his ideal education largely resembles the Varnashram social system. The Brahmanical education was reserved for only the ruling classes, the intellectuals (Brahmins) and the warriors (Kshatriyas), not accessible to the classes of economic producers (Vishyas) and the servant classes (Shudra). The education of warrior classes generally focused on military education andpolitics (Dandniti). The higher education that is the knowledge of scriptures was reserved for the intellectuals, the Brahmins. The RSS’s notion of education imparted in the Shishumandir and Shakha bears noticeable influence of Plato’s education system. Plato theoretically picks up children at the time of the birth and subjects them to selected tales and lyrics. RSS picks them up little later and inducts them as Shishu ( child) Swamsevak and trains them further as Bal (boy)Swamsevak; kishor (Adolscent) and Tarun (young Swamsevak) Swamsevak and then graduation to full-fledged Swayamsevak after attending two camps ITC and OTC (Officers Training Camp). Like Plato it too emphasizes, in belief in the God, discipline and obedience along with indoctrination in selected way of thinking. There is no scope here of comparison between Platonic and RSS education systems, which is subject matter of separate discussion. But unlike Plato, it does not allow women in its scheme. From the above discussion we can conclude that Plato’s education system is an aristocratic system aimed at maintaining the strict class division of the rulers and the ruled and training the philosophers to rule over the majority of the producers.

Ish Mishra, Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science, Hindu College, University of Delhi

[1]K Marx &F Engels, German Ideology, K Marx & F Engels, Collected Works, (CW, hence forth) Vol. 5, Progress, Moscow, 1978 pp.59-62

[2] For details,

[3] A note

[4] Quoted in William Ebenstein, The Great Political Thinkers, p.

[5]गुरुर्देवो भव; गुरुर्ब्रह्मा, गुरुर्विष्णु…. Etc.



[8]Republic, op.cit. pp. 228-30

[9] Ibid, p. 231

[10] Ibid p. 234

[11] A note on Gramsci’s incarceration judgment

[12] A note and

[13] A note and ईश मिश्र, राष्ट्रराज्य और राष्ट्रवाद, समयांतर, जनवरी, 2018, also in

[14] A note

[15]Republic, op. cit. p.346

[16] Ish Mishra,

[17]Republic, op.cit. p. 230

[18] Ibid

[19] Two of the multitude of the Gods (a note )

[20]Republic, op.cit. (emphasis added)

[21] Machiavelli, The Prince

[22] Ambedkar, Gita (reference)

[23]Republic, op.cit.p. 231 and a note on the story of Uranus and Cronus.

[24] Ibid, p. 235

[25] Ibid p. 254

[26]Ibid pp. 254-55.

[27] Ibid p. 255

[28] Ibid p.256

[29] Ibid p. 262

[30] Mary Wollstoncfat, Concerning Women’s Education, (a note)


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